Suicide is a difficult topic to discuss. It's one that can feel heavy and overwhelming, leaving many people feeling unsure of what to say or how to act. This uncertainty often contributes to the stigma around suicide, which can prevent people from getting the help they need.
That’s why it’s so important to talk about it. Here, we’ll explore the stigma surrounding suicide, what you can do to help break it, and why seeking help from licensed professionals such as SonderMind therapists is a key first step toward managing suicidal thoughts and feeling better.
To understand why stigma surrounding suicide exists, it’s important to first understand what stigma is. Stigma refers to the negative attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that the public holds towards a particular issue or condition (public stigma), negative attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that a culture holds towards a particular issue or condition (cultural stigma), and internalized negative societal beliefs about a particular issue or condition (self-stigma).
Although we’ve made a lot of progress normalizing conversations around mental health, many people still approach mental health topics and conditions — including suicide — with stereotypes or prejudices in mind.
In general, stigma arises from lack of knowledge and misguided beliefs or myths. This is also true for the stigma surrounding suicide.
Some myths that contribute to the stigma around suicide are:
These falsehoods can be upheld and perpetuated by people and things that are a part of our everyday lives, including the media, social media platforms, religious beliefs, cultural beliefs, family members, and peers. As a result, stigma continues to be present in our communities and society.
Stigma surrounding suicide is not only hurtful but also harmful. It can cause people to feel isolated and alone, preventing them from seeking out the help and support they need. In fact, studies show that the stigma surrounding suicide is one of the most significant barriers to seeking help.
According to a survey by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, 65% of people with suicidal thoughts felt that they could not seek care because of the stigma associated with suicide. For those who do seek care, stigma can lead to ineffective treatment. For example, due to stigma, the care someone receives for a suicide attempt may focus on their physical needs but not the emotional or psychological needs that caused the attempt in the first place.
Moreover, stigma negatively affects the families and loved ones of those who have died by suicide. They may blame themselves or feel guilty, and feel judged by others. This can make mourning difficult and keep them from seeking support while grieving.
Stigma around mental health and suicide could be more damaging now than ever before. That’s because mental health concerns are on the rise across the U.S.— particularly among young people. For example, suicide attempts and ongoing feelings of sadness are increasing among teenage girls. According to a 2021 report from the CDC, 30% of teenage girls said they have seriously considered dying by suicide — a percentage that's risen significantly over the past 10 years.
With suicide being the second leading cause of death for people aged 10 to 34, it’s vital that those experiencing suicidal thoughts feel they can and should seek help. However, even with these alarming statistics, suicide is often considered a taboo topic. Many people are still unwilling to talk openly and honestly about suicide, either because they fear they may contribute to the stigma surrounding it, or due to the stigma itself.
Breaking the stigma around suicide requires a coordinated effort from everyone. This includes family, friends, mental health professionals, and even society as a whole. That being said, change can start with you. Here are five things you can do to help end the stigma surrounding suicide:
Take the time to learn about suicide, mental health, and the factors that contribute to suicidal thoughts. You can find information online from reliable sources such as .gov and .org sites, read books written by medical and/or mental health professionals, and seek clinically-reviewed resources from mental health organizations and providers. Gaining knowledge around this topic can help you educate others when you hear myths and misconceptions and promote accurate information.
It’s important to show empathy towards those who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide. Don’t talk negatively about suicide or about someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts. Remember, what you say matters. Conversations around suicide should be had in a safe space that’s free of judgment or stigma. Listen actively, without making assumptions or jumping to conclusions.
Use your voice to raise awareness about suicide and mental health. You can share informative, accurate content on social media and start conversations with friends and family. By talking openly and honestly, you can help reduce the shame associated with suicide and encourage others to seek help.
Offer support to those who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide. Encourage them to seek professional help and provide resources such as helpline numbers, information on support groups, and guidance on where they can find therapy services. Let them know they're not alone and that help is available. For more guidance on how to help someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts, look to these tips.
Get involved in advocacy efforts aimed at improving mental health care and suicide prevention, such as helping to promote National Suicide Prevention Month. Support organizations that work towards reducing stigma, increasing access to mental health services, and promoting well-being. Join campaigns, sign petitions, or volunteer your time to make a positive impact.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, it’s important to seek professional help. Seeking treatment not only helps normalize and break the stigma around getting help for suicide, but it is also a vital step to stay safe and get the support needed to feel better.
Speaking to a licensed therapist can help someone struggling with suicidal thoughts learn the skills they need to think and behave differently during a crisis, and give them a support system to prevent suicide attempts. SonderMind can connect people struggling with suicidal thoughts with a licensed therapist who specializes in treating crises, thoughts, and behaviors related to suicide. All they have to do is let us know their preferences and what they’re looking for in a therapist, and we’ll connect them with someone who meets their needs.
As a friend or family member, you may also benefit from the support of a licensed therapist. Talking to someone can help you cope and offer support to loved ones who are in crisis.
Suicide isn’t easy to talk about, but speaking up and normalizing conversations around the topic can play a huge role in destigmatizing suicide and helping people seek the care they need to manage suicidal thoughts and live healthier lives. If your or a loved one needs professional health for suicidal thoughts, SonderMind is here for you.